One of the big questions everyone in football is asking these days is will the Arizona Cardinals repeat as NFC West division champs in 2009 or will the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks or St. Louis Rams return to their former glory days?
Arizona Cardinals +140
The Cardinals (9-7 SU, 9-7 ATS, 11-5 O/U) made my 2008 preseason pick of them winning the NFC West come true last season – and I see absolutely no reason why they won’t repeat as division champs again in 2009. Arizona returns virtually the same team that shocked the NFC to reach the Super Bowl last season while adding power running back Chris ‘Beanie Wells’ out of Ohio State with the 31st pick in the first round who should help improve the team’s dead-last rushing attack (73.6 ypg).
While the Cardinals ranked fourth in points scored per game, (26.7) and fourth in total yards per game (365.8) and passing yards (292.1) Arizona’s question marks will once again come on defense as they hope to improve a unit that ranked 26th in points allowed (26.6).
After selecting Wells, the Cardinals grabbed three defensive players that they are hoping will help to upgrade a defensive unit that couldn’t stop running water last season. The additions of veteran tight end Anthony Becht and cornerback Bryant McFadden should also help the club in its quest to repeat as division champs.
San Francisco 49ers +230
The 49ers (7-9 SU, 7-8-1 ATS, 8-7-1 O/U) are looking to Hall of Fame linebacker-turned-head coach Mike Singletary to return them to their former glory days – and playing in the weak NFC West should help them immensely.
San Francisco needs to improve on both sides of the ball under Singletary heading into 2009 and needs to answer its questions at quarterback as quickly as possible.
Frisco ranked just 22nd in points scored (21.2ppg), 23rd in yards per game (311.1ypg) and 27th in rushing (99.9ypg) despite having one of the game’s premier rushers in running back Frank Gore.
The 49ers ranked 23rd in points allowed last season, giving up 23.8 points per contest, but ranked in the middle third in almost every other meaningful defensive category, something Singletary will try to build on immediately.
While I think Singletary can eventually help the franchise improve on its uninspiring play the last few seasons, the Niners are going to be a work in progress in 2009.
Luckily, the Niners saw the best wide receiver in this year’s draft fall into their laps when the Oakland Raiders inexplicably passed on Texas Tech standout Michael Crabtree with the seventh pick in the draft, selecting Darrius Heyward-Bey instead. Think 8-8 NFL sports betting member when you think about the Niners, though I’ll admit they have an outside chance to reach nine wins in the uninspiring NFC West.
Seattle Seahawks +210
The Seahawks (4-12 SU, 7-8-1 ATS, 7-7-2 O/U) have a new head coach this season after the departure of former leader Mike Holmgren. Fortunately for Seattle, they’re getting a coach that knows what he’s doing in Jim Mora Jr.
Unfortunately for Mora and the Seahawks, they have a long way to go just to get back to respectability after ranking 25th in points scored (18.4), 28th in yards per game, 29th in passing yards and 19th in rushing.
Defensively, San Francisco ranked in the bottom third in every meaningful category, including dead-last in passing yards allowed per game (259.3).
The good news for Seahawks fans is the fact that they drafted a player in gifted linebacker Aaron Curry that will almost undoubtedly make an immediate impact for Mora and the team’s defensive unit.
A return to health from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and the addition of veteran wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh can only strengthen a unit that was inept at best last season.
St Louis Rams +1100
The Rams (2-14 SU, 6-10 ATS, 7-8-1 O/U) have taken a huge tumble from their ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ days under beloved former head coach Dick Vermeil and quarterback Kurt Warner.
Not only that, but the franchise is headed in a new direction after firing former head coach Scott Linehan and making a wise move to replace him with former New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
Unfortunately, expecting the Rams to win anything more than five or six games is being unrealistic. St. Louis as Spagnuolo has to repair a team in disarray on both sides of the ball.
The Rams were absolutely pitiful on offense in 2008, ranking 31st in scoring, (14.5 ppg), 27th in yards per game (287.2 ypg), 26th in passing (184.2 ypg) and 25th in rushing (103.1 ypg).
Defensively, St. Louis ranked 31st in points allowed (29.1 ppg), 28th in yards per game (371.9), 19th in pass yard allowed, (217.2 ypg) and 29th in rushing, (154.7 ypg).
The Rams drafted tackle Jason Smith out of Baylor with the second overall pick in the draft and he will immediately start, though the team needs help at far too many positions for Spagnuolo to turn things around in one season. Don’t expect a worst-to-first miracle out of St. Louis this season NFL sports betting members.
Projected Order of Finish: Arizona, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis